Local & Regional

Sources: "Kirby Will Resign... Again"

Feb 4, 2017
State of Oklahoma-File Photo

Sources, in the know, say Tulsa State Representative Dan Kirby will submit his resignation rather than face expulsion by the full house.

A special investigative panel, on Thursday,  released a report critical of Kirby and the sexual harassment allegations against him. The report recommended Kirby be removed from office.  The panel vote was 7-0. The full house was expected to take up the matter early this coming week.

Tulsa Gets New Airports Director

Feb 4, 2017
Tulsa Airports-File photo

After a nationwide search, Mark D. VanLoh is named as Chief Executive Officer of Tulsa's airports by the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust. He will begin on February 13th.

The announcement was made Friday following an executive session of the airport trustees.  The trustees, including Mayor GT Bynum, unanimously agreed to the selection of VanLoh who has over 26 years of airport leadership experience.

Fire Damages Business at Tulsa's Port

Feb 4, 2017
Tulsa Fire-Twitter

Tulsa Fire Fighters worked through the night at Tulsa's Port of Catoosa.

Shortly after 2 a.m. on Saturday, fire alarms started sounding in the Advance Research Chemical facility at the port.

Three employees were inside the building at the time. The Tulsa Fire Department responded and quickly got a handle on the situation. No one was injured.

The roads leading to and from the port were closed overnight as a safety precaution.

File photo

 The Environmental Protection Agency has told Oklahoma regulators to do more to protect the state from a surge in earthquake activity that scientists have linked to the underground disposal of oil and gas wastewater.

An EPA administrator sent a letter in November to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, saying a magnitude 5.0 earthquake happened despite state and federal action to curb wastewater injection. The Frontier first reported the contents of the letter

 An Oklahoma woman has been sentenced to life in prison in the beating death of an 83-year-old Bluejacket resident.

A Craig County judge sentenced 21-year-old Chelsea Raulston on Friday in the death of Velma Bennett. Raulston was also given 30 more years for robbery, plus five years for the unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Court documents show that Raulston told authorities she and an accomplice planned to kill Bennett and take her money.

She admitted in a pre-sentencing investigation report that she used a metal pipe she was "able to swing" in the killing.

File Photo

A resource center for Oklahoma nonprofits raises concerns over the movement to allow political activity by tax-exempt organizations.

Similar U.S. House and Senate measures would accomplish President Donald Trump's stated goal of destroying the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits nonprofits from political activity for or against particular candidates, to allow churches broader political involvement.

The Oklahoma Arts Council wants a little more state money next year for certain programs.

The arts council request for fiscal year 2018 asks for "targeted investments" — funding increases for grants to teacher professional development, community arts programs and an arts in the military program started last year.

Arts council Executive Director Amber Sharples said the military program helps veterans.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa Regional Chamber announced Friday its annual list of priorities for lawmakers.

The OneVoice agenda covers state and federal issues to support an educated and healthy workforce, a prosperous economy, and infrastructure critical to business. Nearly 70 partner organizations helped build and endorsed the chamber's 10th annual agenda.

"When we join together to speak with one voice, the power and validity of our agenda increases," said Tulsa Regional Chamber Chairman Phil Albert.

KWGS News/State of Oklahoma

 

 A Republican state lawmaker from Tulsa accused of sexually harassing two former legislative assistants says he's "very disheartened and disappointed" by the recommendation of a special House committee that he be kicked out of the chamber.

Rep. Dan Kirby said in a statement Thursday he believes the recommendation by the Special Investigative Committee that he be expelled from the House are more severe than necessary.

Kirby says he has not had time to review the report and that he does not plan to immediately respond to the committee's recommendation.

KWGS News File Photo

 

 Officials say the Tulsa County jail is facing a $2 million shortfall for the current budget year.

Brad Johnson, who advises Sheriff Vic Regalado, told the Tulsa County Budget Board on Thursday that the jail needs $800,000 per month to pay its bills. But now, the jail is collecting just under $500,000 per month, which is creating the shortfall.

Johnson says the jail is receiving less revenue than expected from federal law enforcement agencies, particularly Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs

 

Three agencies are investigating another death of a resident at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina.

The Tulsa World reports the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office recently finished an examination of the body of 70-year-old Leonard Smith. The cause of death is pending the results of toxicology tests.

Investigations are also ongoing by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services' Adult Protective Services program.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

With a nearly $900 million budget shortfall to make up, Oklahoma lawmakers are set to again consider raising the cigarette tax in their quest for new revenue.

Last year, with a $1.3 billion hole, a $1.50 per pack tax hike fell by the wayside,  a casualty of political hardball.

Besides being a way to discourage smoking, a cigarette tax increase was a popular funding mechanism in 2016. There were bills using per-pack increases to pay for teacher raises, common education and health insurance.

East Tulsa Wildfire Quickly Contained

Feb 3, 2017
State Forestry Service

A morning wildfire causes thick smoke to roll over Highway 412, The Creek Turnpike and far East Admiral. The blaze was reported about 7:15 this morning.

Fire crews from Rogers and Wagoner County battled the fire while Tulsa Police provided traffic control in the area. It took about an hour to get the fire put out. It appears no structures were damaged,

The fire danger is high across Oklahoma with little or no rain in the forecast.

Collins To Step Down from TPS Board

Feb 3, 2017
TPS

Tulsa School Board Member Wilbert Collins is stepping down. Collins has decided to remove himself from this month's school board election. Collins says he is taking the action because of health issues.

He says the problems developed after he filed for re-election. The school board election is a week from this coming Tuesday. 

Prior to serving on the school board, Collins was the District 1 Tulsa County Commissioner.

 

Emergency crews say one person has died in a trailer fire that broke out southwest of the town of Oologah in Rogers County.

A spokesman for the Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services District says firefighters arrived Thursday at the detached trailer around 3:25 p.m. to find it fully engulfed in flames.

Service spokesman John Wylie says the fire was extinguished and the state fire marshal has been called to the scene.

Authorities are investigating what caused the fire. The name of the victim wasn't released.

In the local news:

  • A state house committee recommends Tulsa representative Dan Kirby be removed from office.
  • Amazon will begin collecting Oklahoma Sales Tax.
  • Tulsa School Board Member Wilbert Collins withdraws from re-election bid.

Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission

Tulsa's city council has taken up the zoning change needed before work starts on a north Tulsa business park funded in the Vision renewal.

The 112-acre site is at 36th Street North and Peoria Avenue. Residents have concerns over truck traffic on Mohawk Boulevard the development may bring.

There are concessions to mitigate that in the final plan. INCOG's Susan Miller said an ODOT bridge replacement on 36th Street North will also allow trucks to use to use that road again, reducing traffic on Mohawk.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

City, education and economic leaders want to improve Tulsa’s FAFSA completion rate after only about half of Tulsa’s high school class of 2015 finished one.

According to ImpactTulsa, that equates to roughly $15 million in federal financial aid left on the table. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is required for grants and most scholarships.

"And studies show that if high school students actually fill out FAFSA, they're 30 percent more likely to go ahead and enroll in postsecondary education," said ImpactTulsa Executive Director Kathy Seibold.

State of Oklahoma-File Photo

 

A special House committee investigating a Tulsa Republican lawmaker accused of sexually harassing two former legislative assistants has recommended he be kicked out of office.

If the House votes to expel, it would be the first time in state history. Expulsion requires a two-thirds majority vote.

The committee's report says Rep. Dan Kirby took one of his legislative assistants to a strip club and received topless photos of her.

AG Office

   

Republicans voted to send to the full Senate the nomination of President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

The vote came after Republican suspended committee rules to muscle through the vote, because Democrats boycotted the meeting.

State Forestry Service

 

Crews are battling a wildfire in rural eastern Oklahoma that has burned more than 7 square miles so far.

Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Michelle Finch-Walker says the fire in Haskell County was about 30 percent contained as of Wednesday night, and it continues to burn Thursday morning.

The blaze is in the Beaver Mountain area, about 120 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

KWGS News photo

 

Gov. Mary Fallin says online retail giant Amazon will begin collecting sales tax on purchases made by Oklahoma customers, a move she says is estimated to bring "tens of millions of dollars" into state and local coffers.

Fallin announced on Thursday that Amazon will begin collecting sales taxes next month, and that the money will begin flowing into the state in May. She says the revenue will not affect this year's current $870 million budget hole, because the Tax Commission already projected some increased collections as a result of their negotiations with Amazon.

File photo

Three more Oklahomans have died from the flu in the past week. Of the eleven total deaths reported statewide this season, ten have been people age 65 or older. The Oklahoma Health Department’s Jamie Dukes says that is a vulnerable population, as well as the very young, and those with existing health conditions.

Tulsa County leads the state in the number of deaths with three and the number of hospitalizations with 135. There were 95 more hospitalizations across the state in the past week, for a total of 584 since the season began.

Oklahoma House/KWGS News

 

Oklahoma's new Republican House Speaker Charles McCall is setting up a special committee to review and approve House expenditures in excess of $15,000.

McCall announced the creation of the new committee on Wednesday based on a recommendation from a special panel that is investigating a $44,500 wrongful-termination settlement with a former employee who alleged she was sexually harassed.

No Change in Tulsa's Unemployment Rate

Feb 2, 2017
file photo

Holding Steady. Tulsa’s unemployment rate did not budge in December. New figures for the metro released by the state show the Tulsa unemployment rate remained at 4.8%. That is 2-tenth of a percent below the statewide average.

In the local news:

  • Tulsa's Bus Rapid Transit is discussed at City Hall.
  • No U.S. Senate Committee vote for Scott Pruitt as Democrats boycott meeting.
  • A trial date is set for Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby.

The Lakota Group

A preliminary land use plan for the upcoming Peoria Avenue bus rapid transit route says the city may want to change how a lot of the land is zoned.

The plan was developed during a survey period that included six public workshops, three walking tours and two days of focus groups.

Much of the land along the route is zoned for commercial use. Duncan Associates' Kirk Bishop said that allows flexibility for future economic development the rapid transit route should encourage.

KWGS News File Photo

The City of Tulsa is weighing its options as EMSA faces a lawsuit in Texas federal court.

City councilors, Mayor G.T. Bynum and city attorneys met in executive session for almost two hours Thursday to discuss whether any steps need to be taken to protect the city. No action was taken.

City attorneys said more research is needed, but options could include the city taking independent legal action or  getting involved in the existing lawsuit.

Google Street View

 

 Police in northern Oklahoma say they've arrested a substitute teacher on an indecent exposure complaint after she reportedly did a cartwheel in front of students while wearing a skirt but no undergarments.

The Pawhuska Police Department says a student recorded the incident on a cellphone. Police Chief Scott Laird says the incident reportedly happened during a high school choir class in Pawhuska, about 100 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.

State of Oklahoma-File Photo

 

A special House committee investigating a Tulsa Republican lawmaker accused of sexually harassing two former legislative assistants is set to release its final report.

House officials announced in a press release Wednesday that the special investigative committee has wrapped up its probe into the allegations, as well as a wrongful-termination settlement agreement paid to one of the accusers.

The panel will release its findings and recommendations at 1 p.m. Thursday at the state Capitol.

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